Can you disrupt human research without shaking the human?

 

Operating beyond, betwixt and between the human and non-human 

During my research, I will be exploring how young children who cannot speak are situated in ways that oppress their embodied expression due to the dominant grand narratives and empiricist forces at work (Roberts-Holmes, 2015), researcher positionality, theoretical standpoints and relevance of methodologies. This interdisciplinary exploration reflects my onto-epistemological position[1] (Barad, 2007) as an anti-positivist, critical realist informed by new materialism, posthumanism, relational feminist standpoint and post-structuralism. In ‘thinking with theory’ (Kuby et al., 2016:142) through these frames, I will explore narratives that actively resist some of the oppression such as pedagogies of embodied listening, ethics of care, affect, complexity and polyvagal[2] theories.

In doing so, I will highlight the challenges of drawing both qualitatively and quantitatively from the threads that entangle early education, neuropsychology, mental and physical health, teasing out the troubles using a bricoleur’s toolbag of improvisatory, arts-based, mixed-methods interwoven with statistical analysis of bio-data[3]. Each of these cabinets of curiosity can be opened through defractive provocations on an Operation game board which link the internal and external spaces of a body and brain. These might help us to operate our thinking from both inside and outside of a child’s experience, to sense the affect and effect of the complexities and connectivities of their humanity, even if we can’t know them. For, ‘what exists in the space between inside and outside is an unknown relationship between self and other, a relationship that is itself a community of understanding’ (Springgay et al., 2008:83). In aiming for such epistemological diversity (Siegel, 2006) (see Appendix One) I hope to enable alternative perspectives on what we might, or could, know, and journey beyond a passive tolerance of the status quo towards active, life-changing meta-perspectives[4].

 

By operating within a frame of collaborative and accountable ethics of care and responsibility, we might privilege ‘the sacredness of life, human dignity, non-violence, care, solidarity, love, community, empowerment and civic transformation… hope and forgiveness’ (Denzin et al., 2006:776). However, although well-intentioned, I would contend that this reinforces a western moralistic worldview of the ideal person which positions the responsible, caring, valuing person in a sub-hierarchy of emancipatory power, rendering others as ‘in need’ and less powerful, incapable or dependent. This partial and objectifying judgement exemplifies Kuby’s concern that ‘transgressive practices risk normalisation when they become prescriptive, or procedural’ (2016:144) which can happen in health or educational systems intended to ‘empower’. Teachers well versed in scaffolding or possibility-coaching techniques are well aware of this disparity of power and agency. So how does one discern when to resist the natural drive to help others and risk disempowering them? Where is the line between empowerment through support and empowerment through referral back to the one ‘in need’ to discover their own solution?[5]

This challenging, nuanced standpoint on relationality is further distracted by the political emphasis on safeguarding the rights of children. I would contest this as an untenable fallacy; untenable because it assumes a universal right which is equally valued and accessible across all cultures, and fallacy because it raises expectations of an ideal type (of child) which doesn’t exist. What kind of ‘developmental’ system pressurises children to adapt their being in order to attain acceptable behaviours, skills, attitudes and knowledge, and puts carers and educators in the dichotomous position of having to identify children as wanting against this fictitious, reductive model, whilst still seeking a moral and ethical relationship that generatively supports their growth and development? I would argue that, whilst empiricists have created this bias, using the illusive rigour of quantitative methods to foreground the benefits of science-based research (SBR) (Roberts-Holmes, 2015), it is also social scientists who have objectified the romantic view of the child on which the future is supposed to depend (Mukherji and Albon, 2018).

 

Even if we considered the idea of children’s rights as a starting point for progression, in accepting epistemological orthodoxy and factual rigour, policy makers have neglected to ask more poignant questions around who has which rights, whose responsibility is it to ensure these are upheld, and what happens when they are not. A posthumanist reflection might urge us, instead, to investigate relational rather than individual ethics of care, re-positioning them as ‘matters of concern not matters of fact’ (Latour, 2004:231). Through this lens, we can examine what happens when rights and responsibilities are put to work ‘beyond the theoretically and politically important notions of justice as a universal right’ (Lawson, 2007:3) by asking three key questions:

 

1.       What are the implications of shifting focus from their rights to our response-abilities?

2.       Could a post-structuralist approach offer new patterns of meaning or simply different languages/perspectives?

3.       What are the challenges for social scientists in operating mixed, interdisciplinary, arts-based methodologies as praxis?

 

[1] In studying young children’s having been, being and becoming through the ways their brains, bodies, spirits and personalities are created and expressed, my research fails to separate their being from their knowing as the two appear to be inextricably linked and mutually influential, hence adopting Barad’s useful concept here.

[2] Through Polyvagal theory, Porges established that the vagal nerve links the autonomic nervous system to emotional expression, communication and social behaviour, having evolved from the primitive unmyelinated vagal nerves found in reptiles and amphibians which respond unconsciously to environmental threats. When the body and brain perceive high risk, the vagal nerve shuts down conscious, higher order thinking to enable the autonomic and unconscious defence mechanisms, a process called neuroception, which has an impact on body, brain, spirit, personality and capacities central to social, psychological and physiological functioning (Porges, 2007).

[3] Biodata such as sympathetic nervous system arousal, electro-chemical signal transmission, cerebral blood flow, temperature, blood volume pulse and heart rate variability can all be captured through wearable microsensors that engage with the body in discreet ways. All these data give clues as to the bigger picture of what is going on for children who can’t speak and how to adapt pedagogical, psychological or creative research methodologies to become more relevant for the participants. However, as Braun and Clarke remark, we must avoid ‘falling victim to ‘methodolatory’, where you are committed to a method rather than topic or research questions’ (2006:97). Wilkinson and Wilkinson (2018), further advocate that researchers must become ‘attuned to the methodological preferences of the […] participants, and consequently adapt their methodological offerings’ to enable participants’ authentic communications (p17).

[4] I have utilised Heidegger’s (and consequently Derrida’s) concept of sous rature here to indicate my dissatisfaction with this phrase, ‘meta-perspectives’. It suggests that an overview position of understanding actually exists and, worse, that someone could occupy this position with a privileged, and oppressive, power status over others. My intention is rather to move towards activist choice-taking within a more discerning, perhaps strategic, understanding of the selfless possibilities in life (rather than the selfish, desire-based persuasions of marketing algorithms) – this could perhaps be better described as meta-experiences but the problem of ‘meta’ in relation to ‘experiences’ still remains. Therefore I have left it as it is to give an essence, but with this caveat. This is perhaps a good example of the simultaneous presence and absence of meaning in language often grappled with in post-structuralism.

[5] And, if Amabile’s (1996) motivational theory is right in suggesting that behavioural change is only sustainable when it emerges from an intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation, is the scaffolding, coaching educator still manipulating this situation by presenting motivations and materials that appeal to the desires of the child more than those that don’t?

1.      Their rights or our response-abilities?

Whilst Article 31 of the UN Convention of Children’s Rights[1] may have been intended to elevate awareness, responsibility for, and stewardship of children’s humanity (Lawson, 2007), in practice ‘rights’ have been enshrined in a way which makes this almost impossible.

Firstly, the neoliberal agenda for greater efficiency and effectiveness is shaping and measuring human value in economic terms by privatising care (Lawson, 2007). This has skewed the contemporary rhetoric of the rights agenda so that ‘it is my (child’s) right’ becomes a stick with which to beat others who may hold different views on what this entails. The rights landscape has become a battleground of subjective judgements, encouraging adults to demand fulfilment of their own child’s rights to the exclusion or oppression of other children, and to make choices to rank one right (such as cultural participation or education) over another (such as food, clean water, warmth and protection), especially when funding dependent. In my view, this relegates care to an individually-shouldered, outlawed burden rather than a mutually valued benefit.

 

It is further problematised by the lack of clear definitions, shared understanding and the fact that children’s rights have to be ‘secured’ or ‘enforced’ by another person, legally an adult. Their privileged power to decide whether, and how much, access to these rights is provided relies on a raft of subjective, intangible variables. Ironically, this concealment of care within private boundaries not only reduces its social stewarding, response-ability and accountability, but also the visibility and vocality of those it was intended to ‘empower’.

 

What started out as a set of principles intending to build a fairer world for children becomes an economic debate around whose justice should be served, subject to different cultural perspectives. Perhaps children’s itinerary of humanity would be better identified by acknowledging our differences, variable rates of development, agential and complex flows of power, multiple and non-linear identities, essence/noumena[2] and purposeful forces. This requires a decentring of the child (Barad, 2007) - and therefore the notion of ‘rights’ - in favour of recognising the ‘manifold of forces and intensities that are moving, connecting, diverging’ (MacLure, 2013:660). These might include heritage, dreams, languages, materials, potential and relationships, the correlations of which could be held[3] respectfully in equal measure for who children have been[4] and are now (Murris, 2016) as masters of momentariness[5].

These forces surely must include emotion but can epistemologies of emotion be taken seriously* as a science? Can methodologies that ‘enhance mutuality and well-being’ and pay attention to ‘emotions and affective relations (of love, concern, and connection) because of the complex ways in which power is embedded within them’ (Lawson, 2007:3) be validated across disciplines? Or does the very singularity of other fields restrict this subjective, intuitive, nuanced concept to the sole domain of the social sciences? Without subverting ‘a universal definition of love [or intimacy or care] into a criteria checklist’ (Page, 2018:136), I propose this* is an implausible, anti-generative objective.

 

It seems the only way to get beyond ‘methodological fundamentalism’ (Denzin et al., 2006:770) which favours single-truth, evidence-based models (ironically ignoring the fallibility of their own subjective interpretivism) is to embrace multiple epistemologies and methodologies (or ontoepistemologies) that reveal the ‘incalculable, messy, not knowing’ heterogeneous and disruptive communities of possible knowledge. But to work together to achieve this, the trajectory of research surely has to be towards ‘international debt forgiveness’ (Lawson, 2007:4), which is a ‘methodology of the heart, a prophetic, feminist postpragmatism’ (Denzin et al., 2006:770) which ultimately requires a paradigm-shift towards attitudes of joint responsibility or family matters of concern and away from partial or singular matters of fact (Latour, 2004).

[1] See https://www.unicef.org/crc/files/Rights_overview.pdf

[2] Kant’s transcendental idealism determined that we can only ever carry a perception of a thing in our minds (Crotty, 1998), but never the essence of the thing itself, the noumena. I would like to suggest that humans can access, or sense, a creative essence or noumena beyond articulation, identification, or measurement within the human sphere, and that young children seem to have little problem with this more-than-human concept.

[3] Again, ‘held’ is under erasure until I find a better way to describe a collaborative, relational, reciprocal, sensitive, upholding type of recognition that is mutually understood but not ‘held’ (owned / regarded) by any one person in particular.

[4] Whilst an important shift is taking place away from the concept of preparing ‘adults of the future’, with the untenable burden of responsibility to save the world, the contemporary focus on a child’s being and becoming seems to miss the huge importance of their having been, which I assert is a hugely influential part of their make-up and agential power to both ‘be’ and ‘become’. As Greene articulates, ‘I have come to believe in the importance of connecting the now to the past, of honouring the parts of the past that should endure, and of nurturing some sense of continuity in our acting in and sense-making of the world’ (2013:754). My ontological position holds that we need to rub out this fictional line between past and present (where does one end and the other begin anyway?) as our emerging understandings tell us that the past tense helps form the present sense (Churchill Dower, 2019).

[5] This is a term I first coined in my MA Philosophy assessment (Dec 2018), considering the idea that very young children are masters of momentariness, not concerned with historical or future existences, but making meaning through the immediacy of the life-world by intentionally constructing new knowledge, classification and synthesis in every moment of consciousness.

2.      New patterns of meaning or re-upholstered perspectives?

A post-foundational methodology encourages researchers to stimulate new lines of flight to shoot off across striated spaces in unpredictable directions (Kuby et al., 2016), disrupting the known, territorialised spaces (of meaning, geography, biology, identity, materials and so on) to create new patterns of possibility. But in doing so, are we breaking free enough to ask new questions undefined by space or time? Or are we, like posthuman missionaries, simply re-territorialising existing spaces occupied by converted indigenous science colonies, and re-presenting them by a new name?

 

Where is the balance between keeping new perspectives and methods alive, avoiding them becoming ‘normal or comfortable’ (ibid) and still staying connected to collaborate with and learn from other disciplinarians who remain in the former territories? Whilst I don’t concur with Greene in her concern for the ‘loss of systematicity in… post-qualitative research’ (2013:753), as the very essence of it troubles and acknowledges the power of the unknown in science, which is not as indefensible as Greene suggests[1]. But, in attempting to unlock new vistas by decentring the human subject, I wonder whether social science research runs the risk of losing the essence (and consciousness) of humanity that forms the bedrock of our partner disciplines in education, health, natural and relational sciences.

 

Again, I urge a striving for interdisciplinary relationships between research, policy and practice. How can the new, unknown patterns unearthed through post-qualitative research be aligned with the partially-known patterns in learning, mental and physical health, brain development, social and personal care spaces? Without these starting points of connection, where do researchers imagine their impact will exist other than in the minds and papers of other researchers? Is this not a waste of great cognitive effort if we are not driven by an ‘ethical charge’ (St. Pierre, 2013:655) to continuously, openly and expectantly invite the rest of the world to play, practice, test out and critique our thinking? Despite the claim that the ‘rhizome does not give rise to a concrete entity or, in the case of writing, a clear, singular understanding’ (Kuby et al., 2016:142), there are plenty of papers that might contradict this in their very excellent articulation of post-foundational concepts. For, without this, how do we even set the stage for our own thinking and critique in these areas?

 

As Lather and St. Pierre challenge, have we ‘become so attached to our invention that we have come to think it is real? Have we forgotten that we made it up?’ (2013:631). And aren’t we reinforcing the very exclusivity and flattening of the academy in trying to explore this un-knowing only amongst academics and, with that, only the social sciences? Whilst we have plenty of educationalists, a few artists and a smattering of psychologists, where in the post-qualitative, social science labs are the neuroscientists, epigeneticists, cosmologists, physicians, health visitors, social care professionals, mathematicians, biologists, vets, youth workers, environmentalists and pharmacologists? The live-world experts whose work with hard, fixed data creates an urge to at least gather, if not see/touch/feel/sense, the invisible, fluid assemblages of their stories? The dancers whose physiological constraints are bursting at the seams for an opportunity (and a language) to move thinking throughout and beyond the whole body?

 

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Because, if we really believe in the unflattening of humanity and non-humanity (Sousanis, 2015) and making post-foundational science more available to multi-scientific construction, shouldn’t we be actively resisting the self-aggrandising, brand consciousness-making that appears to be growing amongst some intellectual circles?

 

I am struck by the vast number of references to the work of Deleuze and Guattari in post-qualitative research that remains in the theoretical spheres, without trial or critique in the very practices it espouses to problematise[2], as if the exploration of this important thinking represents a badge of post-qualitative honour amongst theorists, which I propose is in danger of being and un/becoming a brand representation. Couldn’t the ‘Royal – Family – Love – Millennials’ crest designed for a recent D&G campaign just as easily represent the theoretical frame of royal (significant/(blood)lines of flight) family (relational/assemblage/ rhizome) that loves (has intensities/affect/entanglements/ immanence/transcendence) millennial era (post-SBR) thinking?

 

Have we become constrained, ironically, by the very languages/signifiers we are using to liberate a more generative onto-epistemology from the chains of positivist ontologies?[3] And, if so, what starting points or connections can we extract from within these dense post-lingual, embodied and cognitive acrobatics that deny ‘a beginning, an origin’ in service of ‘already becoming in entanglement’ (Lather and St. Pierre, 2013:630) to ensure it will ‘be of any meaningful or constructive consequence in the world?’ (Greene, 2013:753).

 

It may suit the academy to perpetuate the unknown-ness and complexities of futures in post-foundational thinking, let alone think of objectives or objectivity, but meanwhile teachers, childminders, social workers, health visitors and psychotherapists are stuck with the life-shaping response-ability of having no alternatives for, or power over, the mostly positivist developmental theories with which to nurture our children, attract investment and retain their jobs. The critical realist in me admits this may be the biggest challenge for my own research - being positioned across proprietorial disciplines, building on many years of experience in the field and feeling the pain barriers faced by colleagues still working there, attempting to understand and generate shared wisdom through multiple ‘languages’ of praxis, holding professional relationships and their differences as significant and, as a result, hosting expectations to steward some kind of constructive consequence that ‘adds reality to matters of fact and not subtract reality’ (Latour, 2004:232).

 

I’m not sure I agree with Latour’s clarion call for ‘another powerful descriptive tool’ but I entirely concur with his desire to ‘no longer debunk but to protect and care’ (ibid). Rather than deconstruction, which reinforces territorialisation, this will require some form of ‘gathering that always connects’ the vast ‘number of things’ (ibid) within and beyond known spaces, generations, economies, disciplines, theories, practices and policies, that will add reality or value to what can be done by, for and with our children, rather than what cannot.


[1] Surely this is what the great science project is all about, after all? Or have we lost sight of this from our comfy interdisciplinary, millennial viewpoints?

[2] As an experiment, I examined every article within the special edition of Post-Qualitative Research in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (2013): http://bit.ly/2UwOmwX designed as ‘a refusal space in order to think within and against the weight of such a context’, i.e. the previous decade of SBR (Lather and St. Pierre, 2013:629). It seems Deleuze and Guattari are giddily dominating all but one of these superbly eloquent papers.

[3] Even critical rationalist, Popper (1996), hinted towards a higher order thinking of abstract concepts in his theory of Third World Knowledge where ‘exosomatic knowledge’ could be stored, transmitted to, and transformed by many other brains through media such as music, books, imagery, video. Through this, he challenged the epistemological authority of the expert, who is a ‘prisoner of his specialisation’ (Popper and Notturno, 1996, ix) (which reflects my concerns of the current social science trajectory) and argued that this sort of transcendental, creative thinking is accessible to anyone regardless of their intellectual background. This theme is sarcastically mirrored by Latour in his reprimand, ‘What would be so bad with critique for the people? We have been complaining so much about the gullible masses, swallowing naturalized facts, it would be really unfair to now discredit the same masses for their, what should I call it, gullible criticism?’ (2004:230).

3.      Ethical, arts-based methodologies or self-indulgent, representational experimentation?

From a praxis perspective, the challenge remains how to avoid this separation of intellectualised theory from practical methodology, of fixed data from ‘the rhythmic and fluid flow’ (Springgay et al., 2008:85) within reflexivity and relational inquiry? This is sometimes manifested, in my view, in more narcissistic arts-based methodologies whose intellectualised, cognitive objectives are thinly veiled by practical exercises which offer a skin-deep aesthetic experience[1]. Is it because these methods are oftentimes not conducted by professional artists whose intellectual haeccity more readily embodies and emerges from their art form and who might create many more possibilities in doing so than the patterns of meaning that emerge from cognitive activity alone[2]?

 

This presents an interesting dichotomy from a post-qualitative perspective. Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic concept advocates the exploration of new, complex, unexpected patterns but, in trying to sit with the messiness, are we denying the possibility of seeing patterns at all? And if emerging patterns are spotted and named, are they valid? Or are we simply leaning back on interpretivist representationalism for the sake of bridging academy-endorsing theory and real-world practice? As Braun and Clarke express in their critique of thematic analysis, ‘If themes reside anywhere, they reside in our heads from our thinking about our data and creating links as we understand them’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006:80).

 

It seems to me this is why the intra-transitioning[3] from theory to method (and the positioning of post structuralism) is so important, to challenge our mind-based thinking with our embodied knowing, to replace our descriptions of reality that use preconceived languages with unknown nomenclature and signifiers of feeling, spirit, embodiment and noumena.

 

One wonders if Bhaskar’s ‘depth ontology’ concept of critical realism, which assumes that some effects in the world happen by natural necessity regardless of their causal conditions (Williams, 2016), is actually closer to post-qualitative ideas of new materialism than might at first appear due to its quantitative foundations[4]. For instance, one of the most influential arts-based methods in early education has been the concept of intelligent materials in the Reggio Emilia approach, designed to provoke deeper thinking about the purpose or potential of the materials available and to help children access more heterogeneous modes of expression beyond verbal language.

 

A new materialist methodology that investigates the attraction, force, agency or essence of a material that makes a human want to interact with it may, of course, be based on a complex number of variables such as familiarity, novelty, aesthetic beauty, social conditioning, genetic predisposition, openness to the unknown, willingness to take risks, recommendation by a trusted person, and so forth. Some of those factors belong to the person, some belong to the material and may apply by natural necessity regardless of these variables (why do multiple children with completely different influences often desire the same object – even when the other one hasn’t got it?) creating ‘a kind of quantum leap that moves the [object/subject][5] to somewhere unpredictable’ (MacLure, 2013:661).

 

For my research, an A/R/Tographers[6] approach could enable a deeper understanding of this cross-theoretical, defractive-methodological[7], inquiry-based-practice. This arts-related methodology engages children and adults in an in-and-of-the-moment, intra-active, entangled experience – a haeccity with human or non-human materials (Davies, 2014). This can be both observed and enjoyed in a fluid quantitative-qualitative fashion which opens the possibilities for inter-and trans-disciplinary work to take place and ‘operate from a position [of] relational aesthetics’ (Springgay et al., 2008:86). This means the relationship to the art, the creative noumena of the research, is critical but not operating in isolation. It becomes meaningful through mutual interactions between, and generative, constructive encounters with, the audience/practitioners, where they are at.

 

‘A/R/Tography  is a methodology of relational aesthetics where patterns exist not as predetermined identities but as ‘co-appearance’- a being with-one-another’ (ibid). Perhaps this is the space where my research, illuminated by Latour’s matters of concern and care, can be explored with humility, response-ability and integrity.


[1] This may be one example where the academic form drives the aesthetic content and misses opportunities for lived-arts-experience at a deeper level: http://cargocollective.com/annanazo/following/posts/annanazo/Embodiment-of-cognition.

[2] As Biesta points out, ‘Rather than asking what education produces, we should be asking what education means. And rather than asking what education makes, we should be asking what education makes possible’ (Naughton et al., 2017:13). We could perhaps ask the same of our methodologies, especially when working outside of our field of skill and knowledge.

[3] By which I mean a mutually inclusive, dynamic relationship that is self-perpetuating (theory informs and changes method and vice-versa as each new reality – or pattern - emerges).

[4] Although a ‘depth ontology’ doesn’t necessarily acknowledge complexity theory, critical realism still embraces the relative truths of any statistical measurement and acknowledges that there is no one right way of measuring intersectional constructs such as age, class, ethnicity, cultural identities and creativity (Williams, 2016). Hence the need to be critical.

[5] I have adapted the original citation here, which was ‘writing/writer’, to better emphasise the point.

[6] This is an inquiry process that ‘lingers in the liminal spaces inside and outside – the between – of a(artist) and r(researcher) and t(teacher). Vacillating between intimacy and distance, a/r/tography constructs (note - not deconstructs) research and knowledge as acts of complication’… using ‘complexity theory in order to articulate what relational acts of teaching and learning through living inquiry might look like’ (Springgay et al., 2008:84).

[7] In this methodology, defractive analysis replaces thematic analysis by creating research assemblages ‘in response to questions, making particular methodological cuts’ that ‘interrupt, bend and diverge the object of study in co-productive ways creating the object/s, data and methods together’ (Chappell et al., 2019:300). This is the methodological approach I have rehearsed in the Operation game board visualisation of the questions within this text.

Appendix One

Map no. 1: of definitive, hierarchical paths towards epistemological mono-geneity

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Map no. 2: of possible, relational paths towards epistemological diversity

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Siegel’s concept of epistemological diversity (2006) raises questions about how we circumnavigate the hierarchy of epistemologies based on the dominant ‘hegemonic imposition’ (Siegel, 2006:7) at any one time, referring to whose, or what type, of science is considered the most valid, reliable and useful. This is often represented as a traditional disciplinary hierarchy (see Map No. 1 above) which epitomises a political and intentionally-partial picture (Denzin et al., 2006; Roberts-Holmes, 2015).

 

However, to avoid the temptation of re-ordering the hierarchy, reinforcing alternative power struggles and territorialisation, according to Denzin social science should focus on the why rather than the what, to reveal ‘the practical, political, moral and social consequences it produces for an actor or collectivity’ (Denzin et al., 2006:776). Although Kuby et al (2016:144) remind us to err on the side of caution and resist resorting to familiar territories of interpretivist meaning-making, instead focussing on asking, ‘What does it do (to us)?’ rather than ‘What does it mean?’ in order to, as St. Pierre puts it,  ‘avoid understanding too quickly’ (2011:614).

 

As humans we seem driven towards defining and classifying knowledge, displacing our real experiences so that, ‘rather than concepts pointing us towards realities, realities are relegated to being mere exemplifications of concepts’ (Crotty, 1998:81), i.e. the more we categorise, the more we generalise. And yet what is eminently clear is that any such hierarchy of scientific value or validity is neither truthful nor useful in our complex societies and reduces the possibility of developing a shared understanding of ‘complex, contextual, dynamic social phenomena’ (Greene, 2013:750).

 

Perhaps cartographers could design a post-foundational map (such as Map No. 2 above) of inter- and trans-disciplinary research that blurs disciplinary boundaries, challenges the academic definitions of scientific validation, recognises unknown spaces and spotlights the subtle correlations between multiple and incomplete causes, effects and conditions. The social sciences are well positioned to overcome the illusion that co-constructing knowledge with the pure, natural and applied sciences will enable examination of the full lifecycle and possibilities of an idea. However, the remaining danger is that scholarly cartographers, in ‘learning how to dismantle, deconstruct and decolonize traditional ways of doing science, learning that research is always already both moral and political, learning how to let go’ (Denzin et al., 2006, p770) with all good intentions, will end up designing ‘new ‘gold standards’’ for reliability and validity based on mixed methods (ibid).

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